TURLOCK (CBS13) – Nearly two dozen people were charged after federal authorities uncovered an alleged “large-scale drug ring” across North Carolina colleges, and a Turlock man was sentenced to 73 months in prison for being a primary supplier, according to a news release from the US Department of Justice Middle District of North Carolina.
Turlock resident Francisco Javier Ochoa Jr., 27, was the first person to be indicted, back in November 2019, as a result of the investigation. Court documents allege that Ochoa Jr. supplied 200 pounds of marijuana and 2 kilograms of cocaine weekly to a cooperating defendant in Orange County, North Carolina. Ochoa was also ordered to pay a $250,000 forfeiture judgment.
According to the DOJ, the drug ring funneled over a 1,000-pounds of marijuana, several hundred kilograms of cocaine, and “significant quantities of other drugs” over the course of several years across multiple colleges.
Including Ochoa Jr., 21 people in total were charged in the case. Several of the defendants were identified in court documents as fraternity members or other students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and Appalachian State University.
Court records allege “illegal drug activity involving the UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi occurring between 2017 and the spring of 2020.”
The other 20 defendants are facing charges including conspiracy to cocaine, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a public or private college, and use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug felony.
At locations associated with Ochoa Jr. in the Carrboro and Hillsborough areas, law enforcement seized nearly 150 pounds of marijuana, 442 grams of cocaine, 189 Xanax pills, steroids, and over $27,000 in cash., the DOJ said.
Including Ochoa Jr., 8 people have pleaded guilty.
Among the other 20 defendants was another person from Turlock – 25-year-old Mariela Zavala Mendoza, also known as Maria Ochoa, the DOJ said. Ochoa charges included conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
“No one is above the law, including college students and fraternity members at elite universities. This serious drug trafficking is destructive and reckless, and many lives have been ruined,” said U.S. Attorney Martin. “This investigation reveals that the fraternity culture at these universities is dangerous. University administrators and national chapters cannot turn a blind eye to the impact on these students and the environment on their respective college campuses. The drug culture feeds many other problems on campus and in our society. University administrators must take a stand and put a stop to it.”
In a statement to CBS News, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said:
“We are extremely disappointed to learn of these alleged actions on our campus. The University is committed to working with law enforcement to fully understand the involvement of any university individuals or organizations so that disciplinary action can be taken. Although none of the individuals named today are currently enrolled students, we will remain vigilant and continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and address any illegal drug use on our campus. Our community can be certain that the University will enforce the student conduct code to the fullest extent possible.”
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